My mother was the ultimate witch. My earliest memories are strongly linked to my mother’s ritualistic practices. Strange devotional movements made in the early morning sun by her bed, foreign mantras whispered to me whenever I was in pain – I remember holding her hand and repeating Om Mani Padme Hum while my eardrum near burst on a plane and being read bizarre visualisations of green goddesses and soft pink light when I couldn’t sleep.
I was handed potions out of little amber bottles when I had a headache and tiny sugar tasting pills from blue vials for toothache. A group of gentle looking, softly walking, comfortably clothed people would visit each week and sit in a circle, talking quietly among one another.
Sometimes one of them would come and take her away for a couple of weeks to a place called “Tara Hills”. She’d hug me goodbye and I’d spend the next fourteen days dreaming of her holidaying in some kind of fairy glen. Once I even found a most mystical diary written in code on her desk.
Her early twenties were spent surf-side and bikini clad, known among the grommets as Wendy Witch Eyes. Whether this was because of her pale blue eyes lined in black kohl or because nothing got past her pin point perception, I’m unsure. By the time I came into the picture she was affectionately called the Wicked Witch of the West within her coven of friends, The Witches. I always felt the reference was more Roald Dahl than Wizard of Oz .
Her best friend strongly resembled Stevie Nicks (complete with patchwork cloak and constant 70’s basket as handbag) and they definitely cackled over the pot every now and then (both types).
It wasn’t until years later that I learnt her strange ritualistic movements were yoga - still obscure in 80s suburbia. The mantras and visualisations came from her love of Tibetan Buddhism and are widely used today, the potions and pills - aromatherapy and homeopathy. The diary - I figured that one out when I studied journalism - it was shorthand leftover from her days as a political secretary in the 70s.
The people in our house, quiet and sitting in a circle - her meditation group. Tara Hills - a meditation retreat centre that once existed in the Adelaide Hills. These rituals normalised as our world opened with the internet and yoga and meditation became Westernised. So while I grew up and saw them less mysteriously they are still infused with a strange nostalgic magic.
It wasn’t until we moved to Sydney’s North Shore that I realised my upbringing was somewhat eclectic. I mean, not everyone is picked up from their all girls private school in a mustard coloured run down camper van complete with zebra print seat cushions and crystals hanging from the rear view mirror.
Mothers in general have an innate sense of being able to psychically read their child’s mind -whether by a connection that cannot be cut with the umbilical cord or animal instinct. At first this seems like some kind of irritating magic but as we grow older we begin to understand that with experience comes a wealth of wisdom.
About a decade ago, as a grown woman, I took some cold and flu tablets on an empty stomach. Nothing would appease the stomach pain that ensued - I tried milk, banana, bread…everything. Until my mum put her hands on my back. Instant relief. It might’ve helped that she knew Reiki or it might’ve just been because they were my mums hands but evidently it only takes a mother’s touch to heal a wound.
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The same goes for a mother’s kiss having the ability to quell a tear or a phone call to simplify an overdramatised situation. I cannot count the amount of times I called my mother about boy problems to have her simply yell “NEXT!” as if standing in a perpetual line of men, checking them out and ticking them off as unsatisfactory one by one. She had a point.
Once, as a teenager, months after my mum visited my apartment, I found hidden inside not only the pillow slip but the INNER pillow slip, three tarot cards bound and placed under my sleeping head. Unknowingly to me, she and her Stevie Nicks-esque best mate had (probably under the influence of a few glasses of bubbles) placed a “spell” on myself and a man I had a crush on and I had slept on it for months. Funnily enough, about five years later, I did end up dating him.
When she died I had mystical experiences because of her. I started dreaming of her. Dreams where she would offer me the most exquisite smelling lavender I have ever experienced, dreams in which she would show me vibrant shades of translucent colours, the likes of which I have never seen in waking life.
I dreamed I was sitting with her in a temple and all of the things I’d been wanting to tell her about, ask her opinion on, magically became redundant over a carafe of violet cordial. I use the mantras she taught me now when I’m in pain and often turn to those visualisations when I can’t sleep. Her meditation group is now my own and I’ve both joined her and more recently, taken her place, on many of the retreats. I still have blue vials of tiny sugar pills of arnica and a tea chest full of her essential oils. And I’m the first to place my hands on someone and try out my own version of Reiki if nothing else is working.
I can honestly say she taught me everything I know. And even now she has passed away, I am still learning from her.
My mother passed on all kinds of knowledge - how to meditate, how to tolerate pain, how to cure a cold and flu using alternative therapies. How to heal someone using love. Even through her death I learnt things she couldn’t personally teach me - lessons that can’t be taught until you experience caring for someone who is dying.
I can’t call her anymore to simplify a complicated situation, but I can hear her voice anyway. That connection we have with our mothers, their irritating ability to always know whats best for us, it doesn’t die. It’s passed on. We carry it in ourselves as that all knowing voice who tells us to grab a jumper as we walk out the door or to finally move on from someone who isn’t good for us. To me, that’s the ultimate witchcraft.